Last night, we kicked off a wonderful time of worship and Bible study at our SeniorCelebration, hosted by Cliff Barrows.
Soul-stirring music from the Smith Family set the stage for the evening, and Mel Blackaby of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., led a time of study on the topic of abundant life, using Scripture from John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
How do you have abundant life? If you don’t have joy and peace, you may have “religion,” but not a personal relationship with Christ. Abundant life is not about us … it’s about Him. We must give ourselves away.
Jesus did not tell us to go and make “decisions.” He said go and make “disciples.” If our hearts are truly changed, we will experience true joy and excitement at the opportunity to serve Him.
This seminar, which wraps up on Wednesday, promises to be another event where those attending leave challenged and full of Biblical truth to return and make a difference in their home churches. New friendships begin and prayer connections are found with people who have never previously met. Abundant life is not what we receive, but rather what we can give to others.
First of all, make sure your life backs up your words of proclamation. If people don’t see it in your life and in your attitudes, no matter how well you present the Gospel, your words will fall on deaf ears.
Second, listen to the other person. Ask him or her, “What is your spiritual journey?” Do this before you share your own. This communicates that you care.
Third, declare biblical truth within the context of your own testimony. I share my story, but I proclaim truth within it.
Next, be ready to defend your faith. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). Which simply means, when somebody asks, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” give an answer. “Why do you believe in the Bible?” Give an answer.
But when you witness, make sure you use Scripture because God promises to honor His Word.
And finally, call for a decision. That’s where most people miss out. We tell our story and everything else, but we don’t ask for a decision. That’s essential!
Do you know what you believe and why you believe it? The answers to these questions shape how we live our lives. We cannot live out God’s purpose for our lives until we understand what it is and how it should be reflected in our lifestyle.
July 15-17, renowned author and apologist Josh McDowell, along with his son Sean, will join us for a special seminar entitled “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith.” The content for this special study is based on their new book “The Unshakable Truth” which explores the 12 foundational truths of the Christian faith, why they are credible and how they are critical to living out what you believe.
In fact, anytime he can bring his wife with him, like last weekend, he does.
“The setting’s just awesome,” Ingram said.
But to describe it in more detail took a little more thought process.
“It’s excellence without opulence,” Ingram said. “It’s well done but it’s not overdone.”
And what hits Ingram the most is how thoroughly enjoyable his experiences at the Billy Graham Training Center have been.
Year after year after year.
“It really honors God, from the top to the bottom,” he said. “From the person at the door to the the kitchen staff to the maids who pray for the guests when they make their beds, there’s a servant’s attitude here that’s real.”
Ingram gave a “Next Generation” parenting retreat over Memorial Day weekend aimed at those 45 and under called “House or Home” and if the wrap-up testimony time was any indication, this was more than just a three-day seminar where couples walked away with head knowledge.
“God works here,” Ingram said. “Not to be overly mystical or anything, but the hand of God’s favor has been on this man (Billy Graham) and organization.”
Possibly the best part to any weekend get-away, the wondering of what is in store is almost as beneficial as the actual vacation itself.
Well-known pastor and author Chip Ingram spent parts of three days in the mountain tops outside of Asheville, bestowing wisdom to eager parents about, you guessed it, parenting.
And as my wife and I slipped into the dining room and our eyes locked in on the only two remaining seats, that feeling of anticipation quickly slipped into reality, with Gigi Graham welcoming us even before we placed the crisply-designed napkin into our laps.
You know the drill. Where you from? How many kids? What do you do? Pick your three or four of the least-threatening pleasantries and your shallow table conversation can commence.
But not this table. Not this weekend.
The three other couples — from Ohio, Tennessee and South Carolina — didn’t come to play Sunday School. This much was clear.
The conversations were real from the first hellos.
“We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary,” said Lorien Boyer, a graphic designer from Westerville, Ohio. “And I wanted to go on a cruise.”
The glance to her husband was priceless. Except maybe to the husband.
Mark Boyer, manager for an upstart Christian Radio Station Shine (88.9), explains their story slightly different. You see, the Boyers had good friends just outside Columbus, Ohio, also celebrating 10 years of marriage and they had planned taking a cruise together. Until the friends, ever so inconveniently, got pregnant.
That’s when Mark went to the well and scrambled for a suitable Plan B. Honey, how about the Cove? And Chip Ingram?
And hey, it’s on parenting. Memorial Day Weekend. Perfect.
“The first time I threw it out there she was like ‘No, I don’t want to go to a seminar,” said Mark, father to Casey, 2 1/2, and Drew, 14 months. “But when you go to something like this, you know God is going to do something, you just don’t know what.”
Lorien didn’t care for the pep talk. Where’s the Lido Deck? The 30 SPF? The Midnight Buffet?
“I was very disappointed,” Lorien said. “I had never been on a cruise. The Caribbean. Warm Weather. Laying on the beach…
Spoiler alert: Mark talked Lorien into scrapping the cruise idea and the couple made the 8-hour drive to the Billy Graham Training Center this past weekend.
And as much as Lorien doubted Mark, she couldn’t help but stop herself in mid-sentence as the conference was wrapping up and she was saying her goodbyes, exchanging e-mails.
“But this…,” she said, pausing to flash her husband a smile, as they talked about a return trip. “I’m definitely glad we came. It was such a great weekend!”
Trevor Freeze, a writer for billygraham.org, survived the Chip Ingram parenting conference at The Cove. And highly recommends it.
I will tell any couple that the key to navigating those child-rearing years is to make your marriage your number one priority. My wife Teresa and I learned some things (through Scripture and personal experience) that I would like to share with you:
1. Keep cultivating the spiritual side of your marriage.
This doesn’t have to look legalistic or structured, but praying together and sharing your hearts is crucial to the health of your marriage. It looks different ways for different couples. Honestly, corporate devotions don’t work well for us. Instead, my wife and I each have our devotions and get together often and talk about what God is teaching us. This kind of sharing builds a necessary spiritual connection between husbands and wives.
2. Develop companionship.
It’s important to have fun together. This is the kind of thing that keeps the love alive. Youth sports, work and kid demands can very quickly crowd that out.
Of all the years of pastoring large churches, my wife and I spend much of my day off together. We go to lunch, goof off and have fun. Even in our earlier years when we were raising children we would usually have about three hours to ourselves. We’re still doing that after 30 years of marriage.
3. Build a structure for communication.
So, what do I mean by this? Here’s an example:
We, like most people, get paid every two weeks. Neither one of us enjoy doing the bills. So, we have made it a time where we leave the house, get cup of coffee, and write out all of our bills together. That way, we both know where the money goes and we are on the same page about our finances.
We would also spend this structured time to talk about the kids, and how they are doing … phases they were going through. So every two weeks, Teresa and I discussed money, values and kids, so we that didn’t find ourselves confused by going too long without talking about these things. We do these things that keep us on the same page.
4. Spend time with older, more mature couples.
Wherever we’ve lived in the past, we learned to seek out older couples who seemed to have a marriage like we would want to have and/or who have raised godly kids. This doesn’t need to be anything formal or structured, but proactively go after them. Go out to dinner with them.
You know that couple that is 20 years older than you, but seems to have more fun? Find out what they do!
And the couple that has four adult kids that walk with God? Hang out with them and learn what they did.
5. Be united in front of the children.
Throughout my marriage, I would say our biggest arguments were the result of not being on the same page about discipline and consequences. She thought I was too hard on the kids; I thought she was too soft. When she would not follow through with what we agreed upon, it drove me nuts. When I would deliver consequences that she did not agree with, it drove her nuts.
Then we decided that we would agree in private on discipline and consequences so that we could, in public, stand before the kids with a united front.
Chip is coming to The Cove this weekend to teach couples biblical principles of parenting. Space is still available for this specially priced retreat. For more information or to register online, click here. Chip caught up with BillyGraham.org. Click here to read more about “raising up parents” and the upcoming seminar at The Cove.
Chip Ingram is an accomplished author and the senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, Calif. He is also president and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international discipleship media ministry that provides teaching through radio, TV, and interactive online discipleship pathways. For more information about Chip and Living on the Edge, visit www.livingontheedge.org.
On Saturday, May 21, we are excited to welcome singer-songwriter Shaun Groves for An Evening at The Cove!
His 2001 debut “Invitation to Eavesdrop” scored five songs on the charts and a number of Dove Award nominations, including New Artist and Song of the Year for “Welcome Home.” He was soon touring coast-to-coast and around the world with Bebo Norman, Jars of Clay and Michael W. Smith.
Since then, Shaun has traveled with the Christian child development organization Compassion International. He has invested himself entirely in spreading a new message: salvation is not just about being “saved from” something, as he’d learned as a child. It is about being “saved for” something. Very true.
We hope you’ll join us for this special time with Shaun. We know your heart will be touched.
Here’s a video of a performance of his hit song “Welcome Home” on Faith Café.
Tickets for this event are $50 and include dinner. Concert-only tickets are available for $28, and overnight lodging is also available. To register, click here.
Next weekend, we are excited to welcome our friends Pedro Garcia and Levi Lusko to The Cove for a very special seminar called “God Rocks the Rebel.”
Here’s a sneak peek of Levi Lusko speaking on the topic.
From their exploding churches in Miami and Montana, Pedro and Levi are seeing God bring revival to many in their generation. In this seminar May 19-21, participants will study – through the book of Jonah – the process God employs to sanctify His wayward children for use in ministry.
Pedro Garcia is senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Kendall, one of the fastest-growing churches in Miami. Pedro’s enthusiastic love for the Lord and the lost is contagious. He teaches verse-by-verse through the Word of God, resulting in lives that are impacted, built up, and equipped to do the work of ministry. His humorous, passionate and contemporary style connects with a wide audience without compromising the truth of the scriptures. He currently serves on several Boards of Directors including Samaritan’s Purse with Franklin Graham. Visit the Calvary Chapel Kendall website, Pastor Pedro’s blog, or follow him on Twitter.
Levi Lusko was invited by Skip Hetizig to serve as youth pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque, one of the largest churches in the state of New Mexico. In 2004, Levi began the O2 Experience, a high-energy event geared at reaching young people with the message of sexual purity and the gospel. In addition, he has spoken at churches, concerts and evangelistic outreaches all over the country. Levi has served as host for Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades, and has recently worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as a creative consultant. He is the Senior Pastor of Fresh Life Church, a church he planted, in Kalispell, Montana. His teaching style is real, relevant, and raw. Visit the Fresh Life Church website, Levi’s blog, or follow him on Twitter.
“God Rocks the Rebel” is a Next Generation Retreat, an event specifically designed for those 45 and under and offer modern worship, discussions with the speakers and optional recreational activities. Next Generation Retreats are offered at a special price. Register today to reserve your spot.
Doubts and questions about God and the Bible are nothing new. There have always been skeptics. Some are sincere yet misguided, while others are unwilling to embrace the truth once they’ve encountered it. Others simply have an axe to grind.
A number of websites (many of which are aimed at teens) are devoted to debunking the Bible. Books like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, or Bart Ehrmann’s Misquoting Jesus have generated media coverage for “the new atheism.”
Consequently, many of the questions raised by these high-profile skeptics are also on the minds of skeptics with whom I interact. During the course of planning this special conference at The Cove, here is one of the more common questions on the minds of people I encounter:
What about those who haven’t heard of Christ?
The Scriptures are clear that those who believe in Jesus will be saved (John 1:12). But what about those in un-reached people groups?
The fact is that God has not forgotten the un-reached peoples. I Timothy 2:4 clearly states that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Acts 17:26-27 says that God has determined the times and places for everyone to live “so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).
Scripture and contemporary missionary evidence support the claim that those who seek God based on the light they have will be given the knowledge of the Gospel in some way, even if this is supernatural (like the Gentile Cornelius, found in Acts 10). This conclusion has been held by Christian thinkers ancient and recent, such as Thomas Aquinas, James Arminius, to modern theologians like Ronald Nash and Robert Lightner. This view satisfies the claim that a loving God would make salvation universally available, but it avoids the problematic claim of inclusivism that people can be saved without knowledge of the gospel.
A striking example from modern missions that supports such a position is related by Don Richardson in the book Eternity In Their Hearts. A man named Warrasa Wange from the Gedeo people of Ethiopia cried out to “Magano” (his tribe’s notion of the highest and most benevolent Deity). Warrasa asked the Deity to reveal himself.
Almost immediately, he began having visions of two white men building shelters under a large tree in his village. A voice in the visions told him, “These men will bring you a message from Magano, the God you seek. Wait for them.” Eight years later, two Canadian missionaries came to Warrasa’s village and met him under the same tree he saw in his vision. The missionaries shared the gospel and Warrasa and many of his fellow tribesmen believed. I believe that this is a compelling example of God getting the Gospel to a person who honestly sought after Him based on the “light” he had. But what is important is that his salvation was based on the gospel he believed, not just on the “light” he had.
Beyond this the Bible does not clearly teach what will happen to those who never receive the good news of the Gospel but do attempt to seek God. As C. S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, “The truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are.” The best a Bible-believing Christian can do is to trust in God’s wisdom, mercy and grace, and to suspend judgment salvation of the un-evangelized. As the editors of Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World conclude in their introduction, “These optimistic hints can never become a first-order control belief” because the Bible is just not clear on this subject.
In reality, there is only one person of whom you may speak authoritatively regarding the condition of their soul: yourself. As with so many things in the Christian life, C. S. Lewis offers practical wisdom for the situation: “In the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. . . If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them.” The bottom line is that we can trust that God, who loves the whole world, will take care of the questionable situations, but our job as Christians is to bring the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.
Learn more about apologetics with Alex McFarland, when he leads a seminar April 15-17 at The Cove entitled “When Worlds Collide.” Click here for more information.
As a speaker, writer, and advocate for Christian apologetics, Alex McFarland has spoken in hundreds of locations throughout the US and abroad. He has preached in over 1,300 different churches throughout North America and internationally, and has been featured at conferences such as The Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Focus On The Family’s Big Dig, and California’s Spirit West Coast, sharing the platform with leaders such as Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, Dinesh D’souza,and many others.
The blog of the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove